Kyrgyz is famous as the language of what is probably the world’s longest poem, the Manas, containing about 500,000 lines (the Iliad and the Odyssey together, by comparison, total about 28,000 lines). Parts of the epic were transcribed by ethnographers and linguists such as Wilhelm Radloff and Shoqan Uălikhanūly (a.k.a. Chokan Valikhanov) beginning in 1885, and these can be considered the first instances of Kyrgyz appearing in print. A handful of Kyrgyz-language works were published in Kazan’, Ufa and Tashkent between 1911 and 1917 by intellectuals and educators such as Kh. Sarsekeev, Osmonaaly Sydyk uulu (A./O. Sydykov), Eshenaly Arabai uulu (Ishenaly Arabaev), and Kasym Tynystan uulu (Kasym Tynystanov). Kyrgyz-language publishing did not begin in earnest, however, until the establishment of an official Soviet Arabic-based script in 1924. This coincided with the establishment of the first specifically Kyrgyz administrative-political unit in modern times, the Kara-Kirgiz Autonomous Region of the Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, also in 1924. (Before the mid-1920s, the Russian term “Kirgiz” was generally applied to the Kazakhs, and today’s Kyrgyz were distinguished from them as “Kara-kirgiz.” Thus, many sources from the pre-Soviet period which appear to deal with Kyrgyzstan are actually concerned with the Kazakhs. This is even reflected in the subject headings assigned to particular works in many U.S. library catalogs; the subject headings for A. E. Alektorov’s massive 1900 bibliography on the Kazakhs in WorldCat, for example, are “Kyrgyz–Bibliography” and “Kyrgyzstan–Bibliography.”) The Arabic script persisted until about 1930, when it was replaced with a Latin-based script, which was in turn superseded by a Cyrillic-based script by the early 1940s. Soon after Kyrgyzstan became a full republic of the Soviet Union (in 1936), its own State Book Chamber was established (1939), although its bibliographic activities were limited for many years due to World War II and its aftermath.
Russian and non-Russian works were treated differently, and very often separately, in Soviet-era bibliography. This is certainly true in the case of Kyrgyzstan, where many cases of completely separate yet completely analogous publications for Russian- and Kyrgyz-language materials can be found (Bibliografiia izdanii Gos. Resp. b-ki vs. Mamlekettik respublikalyk kitepkanasynyn bibliografiialyk basmasy; Bibliografiia Kirgizii vs. Kyrgyzstandyn bibliografiiasy, etc.). This can be both advantageous and disadvantageous to the researcher, who may or may not wish to review Russian- and Kyrgyz-language works separately.
According to Sovettik Kyrgyzstandyn kitebi, fewer than 2,000 books were published in Kyrgyz between 1924 and 1938, a rate of about 133 titles per year. By the mid-1950s, this rate had tripled, and it increased slightly thereafter until the end of the Soviet era. Between 2005 and 2008, the average number of books and pamphlets published in Kyrgyzstan each year was 718.
Several worthwhile resources for the study of Kyrgyzstan do not appear on these pages, although they may appear in more specialized guides prepared by the Slavic Reference Service in the future. Z. L. Amitin-Shapiro’s “Bibliografiia dorevoliutsionnoi russkoi literatury o eniseiskikh kirgizakh, 1750-1917 gg.” (Trudy instituta iazyka i literatury i instituta istorii Akademii Nauk Kirgizskoi SSR, vyp. 5, 1956, pp. 133-167; UIUC call number Oak Street Facility 958.43 T7651 v.5), for example, has been excluded on the grounds that it does not possess some of the usual characteristics of “national bibliography,” although it is a valuable resource for the study of the Kyrgyz people in the medieval and ancient eras. Others, such as Betger & Benediktova’s Kirgiziia na stranitsakh “Turkestanskogo sbornika” : bibliograficheskii ukazatel’ (typescript, Tashkent, 1946) and D. S. Losev’s Kyrgyz SSRnin 30 zhyldygy (1926-1956) : adabiiattardyn kȯrsȯ̇tku̇chu̇ = 30 let Kirgizskoi SSR, 1926-1956 : ukazatel’ literatury (Frunze, 1956; 27 pp.) have been omitted due to their modest size and/or difficulty of access.
For more information about bibliographic work and library collections in Kyrgyzstan, readers may benefit from R. A. Bakinova’s Istoriia bibliotechnogo dela v Kirgizii : dokumenty i materialy v trekh tomakh, 1918-1970, (Frunze, 1976- ) and L. T. Sadchikova’s Bibliotechnoe delo v Kirgizii : ukazatel’ literatury za 1918-1970 gg. (Frunze, 1984). Those interested in the development of scholarship and intellectual life in Kyrgyzstan more broadly may want to make use of D. S. Losev and E. G. Abal’dinova’s Kyrgyzstandagy ilim zhana ilim-izildȯȯ ishteri, 1941-1976 zh.zh. : bibliografiialyk kȯrsȯ̇tku̇ch = Nauka i nauchno-issledovatel’skaia rabota v Kirgizii, 1941-1976 gg. : bibliograficheskii ukazatel’ literatury (Frunze, 1982; UIUC call number Oak Street Facility 016.5 L897k). For more information about these (or any other) resources, please contact the Slavic Reference Service.
Finally, readers should note that Bishkek (lit. “kumys-churning implement”), the capital of Kyrgyzstan, was known as Pishpek (after a Kokand-khanate fort of the same name) from 1878 to 1925, and as Frunze (after a Pishpek native who went on to command the conquest of Central Asia by the Bolsheviks) from 1926 to 1991.